A Scriptural Economy: Magics, Meanings, and Massages of Lagos (Abstract)

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Definitions of “scripture” fetishize and sacralize the phenomenon. “scripture” is treated as sacred (texts to be revered), and most assuredly, written with a capitalized initial, “S”. But “scripture”, beyond its axial hegemonic characterizations, is forged through human relationships. Using comparative methodological approaches found in the writings of Wilfred Cantwell Smith (What Is Scripture?) and Vincent Wimbush (White Men’s Magic), this paper examines scriptural imaginaries in the ideation of Lagos as a city, a heavily-freighted terminology, as a modern invention.

In this paper references to (emergent historical) sites of scriptural formations establish the transmutability and translocality of scriptures. By citing the preponderance of religious presences within her, Lagos assumes the reiterations of the indwelling magics, meanderings, meanings, and massages of Henry Louis Gates’ significations or Wimbush’s scripturalization.

As a signifier within Africa’s postmodernities Lagos embodies the consistencies and contradictions of “scripture”, namely opportunities for formations\ re-formations\ deformations\deform-(n)ations within pre- and postcolonial ambiguities, as windows unto understanding human complexities, or what it means to be human. Thus, while scriptures are not always about sacred writings, the British annexation of Lagos as its prized possession via the fiat of scriptural logics shows, as Wimbush argues, that “texts and literacy mark where power is in the world.” Yet, scriptures are not about texts per se; rather, performances of scriptures (signifying and scripturalizing practices) reveal that “individuals are the vehicles of power.”

Finally, processes of nativization and normalization appear to transfer from the early empire dealers to new localized institution builders of society that would not spoil.

Terms: scripture, scripturalization, postcolonial, signifying, power relations

Dr. David Olali presented this paper during the 61st Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association held in Atlanta, GA (November 29-December 1, 2018).
The theme of the events was Energies: Power, Creativity and Afro-Futures.

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Want more details about this presentation, contact Dr. David Olali: david.olali@cgu.edu.

III-P-2 The Crossroads of Spiritualities: New and Old Religions of Lagos in Transition (Lagos Studies Association)

Chair: Babatunde babalola, University of Cambridge

Scriptural Economy: Magics, Meanings, and Massages of Lagos, by David Olali, Claremont Graduate University

Muhammad Jumat Adesina and the Yoruba Madhist Movement in Lagos and Ijebu, by Oliver Coates, University of Cambridge

Ecclesiastical Polity, Christian Nationalism, and Religious Freedom in West Africa, 1880-1884, by Adrian M. Deese, University of Cambridge

Discussant: Adedamola Osinulu, New York University

Photo Credits: Dr. Saheed Aderinto/Western Carolina University

Reading Scriptures: Gender and Class in the “A Witch for Jesus’ Saga

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According to René Girard (The Scapegoat), the unpalatability of evil finds expression through ritual establishment of a scapegoat. Yet, within evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity, there is no lacking in biblical passage quotations to justify the need to destroy the power of witchcraft; the presence of evil in this world results in belief in witchcraft.

This paper examines the use of the theme of witchcraft tropes among selected evangelical Christian organizations in Nigeria. Thesis: cultural biases in gender and class relations play key roles in the interpretation of sacred scriptures.

Scriptures and Fury: The Yoruba Sango and Jesus in Judgement

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‘The Yoruba Sango and Jesus in Judgement’ explores tropes of power in human relations, especially as these help our understanding towards comparative scriptures—in the things that scriptures do, are made to do/are used to do, rather than what they mean à la Vincent L. Wimbush, scholar of Religion and Director Institute for Signifying Scriptures  (Theorizing Scriptures). Persons and communities often arm and equip themselves with what they consider to be divinely-inspired explanations of the supernatural origins and ownership of their “owned scripture.” Subsequently, as psycho-political instruments, users of scriptures activate and deploy same in socio-cultural contexts in order to allow scriptures do stuff for them, not merely as conduits of hermeneutics; after all, messages from the gods require a messenger to deliver them.

This paper uses the theme of fury from two cultures—ancient-contemporary Yoruba and first-century Christianity, in juxtaposition with the deployment and use of anger, threat, and punishment in the US Presidency of Donald Trump—to examine scripture as an Anglo-freighted concept for the imaginaries of power and privilege, or as a response to both power and privilege.

First of all, who is Sango, and what is his connection with fury? How does establishment of a Sango-fury nexus help our definitions in Religious Studies? Does engaging these subjects—Sango, fury, and scripture—help us in understanding Donald Trump as a Christian and politician: a businessman sui generis? Therefore, this paper is preoccupied with providing responses to the above issues, questions, and concerns, in relation to the use of scripture in a power forge.

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